President Uhuru Kenyatta has bashed conservationists opposed to having the Standard Gauge Railway pass through the Nairobi National Park.
In an indication the State would not yield to the demands of re-routing the Sh150 billion-worth project, he said it was ‘nonsense’ for the opponents to rush to court. He was speaking at the launch of the second phase of the 120-kilometre line linking Nairobi to Suswa, near Narok town.
“Nothing is going to damage the Nairobi National Park, so these people should just stop dragging us to court,” President Kenyatta said. He maintained that the route was final, as all consultants involved had approved of it after considering the costs and how to deal with unintended outcomes such as interfering with the wildlife.
Construction is expected to start by early next year, and will involve the drilling of nearly eight kilometres to deal with the hilly Rift Valley terrain, and 24 kilometres of bridges, including within the Nairobi Park.
Activists including renowned litigant Okiya Omtatah have moved to court to challenge the routing of the railway line through the park.
Apart from the impending petition, conservationists have staged protests in the hope that they would dissuade the State from its plans, and re-route the line to preserve the park. “We are doing everything in accordance with the law, and we are sure there is enough mitigating measures taken,” he said.
Among the measures that are expected to minimise disruptions within the national park is the installation of noise deflectors, which are expected to send any sounds from the moving trains up in the air. Already, the contractor is on site at Embulbul – about five kilometres from Ngong town, where substantial works relating to the construction of site office have been completed.
It is at this site where residents turned on the contractor weeks ago in an attack that left several injured. President Kenyatta lashed out at the local leaders including MCAs for allegedly inciting the youth.
“What happened here recently is very despicable and should never happen again, because we have put in place measures to ensure that you get jobs and fair compensation for any land required for the project,” he said.
He had earlier held a closed-door meeting with the Cabinet sub-committee on Infrastructure, the National Land Commission Chairman Muhammad Swazuri and a representative of a contractor called China Communications Construction Company.
He told a gathering of the local community that the contractor had committed to granting most of the casual jobs to the locals, who would also supply at least 40 per cent of the materials required.
“I have told them (contractors) to ensure nothing that is available here will be imported from China,” Mr Kenyatta said, urging the residents to reach out for the business opportunities presented, rather than threatening the workers.
The materials that have been imported by Chinese contractors in Kenya include cement and steel, causing a major stand-off with local manufacturers.
Transport Permanent Secretary Irungu Nyakera said the section within the park would be the most expensive at Sh50 billion, considering it will be elevated at a minimum height of eight metres.
Other alternative routes would cost a lot more, said the PS, citing the most expensive option as through Athi River and Kitengela, at an estimated cost of Sh70 billion.